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MOM AND POP
CULTURE:
Army of Darkness

 

by Marrit Ingman

Iím just going to go out on a limb and say something here. Raising children is a lot like fighting zombies.

I should point out immediately that despite their similarities children and zombies are to be dealt with differently. For zombies you need a shotgun and a flamethrower. Donít use these things on your children. For children are the zombies you donít killóyou feed them and raise them to a state of full personhood while they try to eat your brain.

In their weakest nascent state they eat from your body and befoul you with their vomit and waste. Their bodies are floppy and the bones of their skull arenít quite fused yet. But we love them and put tiny caps on them, funny T-shirts sometimes. Everybody takes turns holding the newborn zombies, walking them around if they get fussy. The zombiesí muscle systems begin to mature. They sprout a set of primary teeth, which they use to bite their peers, pet animals, and parents unless retrained. Soon the zombie will indicate his or her preferences clearly and begin developing spoken language. The zombie will mix socially with other zombies and engage in parallel play.

As the zombies age, they attain a more clearly human aspect. In most cases their projectile vomiting and self-befouling ceases. They develop empathy for others and can perform simple tasks around the house. As their emotions become more complex, the zombies might reciprocate a parentís displays of fondness, or they might call the parent an oblique but insulting epithet, such as ďstupid toxic wasteĒ or ďa moth with nothing to eat,Ē and refuse to leave the family garage.

The zombie transforms into a proto-adult during a painful and humiliating process known as puberty. The zombies attain secondary sex characteristics and outgrow shoes rapidly. They may attempt to learn foreign languages, and many join social clubs. Pubescent zombies can be persuaded to maintain their own hygiene; some zombies, indeed, display a particular aptitude for fashion. By this age the zombies move about freely, except in areas where a curfew exists.

Maybe it sounds like an unloving comparison, or at least an insulting one, but think again: We all entered the world as zombies, and as zombies weíre going back out. In between, we struggle to survive each other. Thatís what humanity is all about. Zombies.

When parents have a child, they have contributed one more body to a global zombie onslaught. Donít panic. A global zombie onslaught isnít necessarily a bad thing. It sure makes a movie better. The trick is managing the outbreak by keeping yourself human while your zombie or zombies transform. The future of the world rests in the small, clenched, and sometimes flung fists of your zombies. Just donít panic.

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You do what survivors do: you band together. Take over a hardware store if you can. Board the windows so zombies donít crash through them. (As soon as my son was old enough to scoot toward the picture window in our living room, he was trying to crash it). See to the injured and get everybody fed. Make sure nobodyís going mental, nobodyís going to make a run for it, nobodyís going to do anything dumb. Everybodyís cool? Good. What have we got then? Two slings, a bottle of gripe water, The Magic School Bus Plants a Seed, size 3 unbleached diapers and an old one in the bag that might be a size 2. Everybody protect the lactating mothers. And donít spill the Veggie Booty. Thatís the last of the bag.

Sometimes thatís what it takes to get people through the day. Fighting a zombie onslaught is serious business. If you are actively working to make a difference in the lives of children, you are fighting a zombie onslaught. If you spend a majority of your day in the company of one or more zombies, you ought to maybe get a little sticker or something, like you do after you voted. ďI Fought the Zombie Onslaught!Ē You could put it on your diaper bag or your teacher name tag or whatnot. And if you really wanted to, you might adopt a Buffy-like persona to keep your imagination active. You might let yourself be a little more badass, because you know motherhood is a lot less like Desperate Housewives and a lot more like Army of Darkness (they got the campy part right, at least).

  Having children changed the way I saw the scene in which Bruce Campbellís shattered reflection in the broken mirror turns into several little miniature versions of him that come to life and torment him. Was this absurd male birth scene some kind of Lacanian feminism? Many times Iíd imagine myself as Ash, poked in the eyes and prodded, while playing with my toddler, my tiny and at times malicious mirror-image. Some afternoons I was certain Iíd split into good and evil halves if a certain fire truck drove in my hair one more time. Those are the days you just get through.

Itís also important to intermingle your zombie with other zombies. If you can herd them, the zombie-onslaught burden is better shared, perceptibly reduced. See if you can get the talkative four-year-old zombies together, for example. They will amuse each other, and the survivors can take a minute to get squared. Check the boards on the windows. Count your blueberries. Steal some propane tanks. Maybe have a montage of it all.

ďOf course you need a village to raise a child,Ē I heard my own mother say recently in conversation. ďYou have to outnumber them.Ē
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 About the Author:
 
Marrit Ingman
is a freelance writer, film critic, occasional educator, and constant mother. She is a frequent contributor to the Austin Chronicle, and her writing on popular culture has also appeared in Brain, Child, Fertile Ground, Alternet.org, Clamor, and Venus. Her first book, Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health out with the Diapers, describes her experience with postpartum depression and was published in 2005 by Seal Press.

 

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